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Basabe ready for year two

BY BEN SCHUFF | NOVEMBER 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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Melsahn Basabe had never experienced that kind of failure before.

For the first time in his young basketball career, the 19-year-old was told he wasn't good enough.

Coming off arguably one of the most productive freshman seasons in Iowa history — Basabe was the first Hawkeye freshman to score 340 points, collect 200 rebounds, and block 40 shots — he was invited to Colorado Springs, Colo., this past summer to try out for the U19 World Championship team.

But Basabe didn't make the cut.

"I hadn't really tried out for my prep school team — it was kind of [set] — and my AAU team, I played well so they just kept me, so you just kept coming back every year," he said. "Obviously, I got a scholarship to the University of Iowa, so [the U19 team] was my first real tryout."

The sophomore said not making the team was actually a good experience.  

"I might not have fit the mold, or maybe I didn't play into the flow, or play as well as they wanted me to. Maybe I wasn't what they needed," Basabe said. "I definitely took away from it that I can play with anybody."

If that statement of confidence wasn't already clear last year, it's only because people weren't paying attention. Basabe proved he could hang with the Big Ten's best when he wowed the crowd in Carver-Hawkeye Arena with 22 points, 13 rebounds, and six blocks against Jared Sullinger and then-No. 2 Ohio State on Jan. 4.

But the Hawkeyes will look for more consistency out of their talented forward this year. Basabe failed to score double-figure points or grab more than five rebounds in 14 of the 31 games in which he played as a freshman.

"Basabe established himself last year as one of the premier players in our league," Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said during the team's media day on Oct. 13. "I think [he has] to take that next step, now that he recognizes that he's somebody that we are going to go to."

McCaffery said averaging a double-double would be a big part of taking that "next step" in Basabe's second go-around with the Hawkeyes.

Simply being on the court more could go a long way toward helping the second-year head coach's wish come to fruition. Foul trouble benched Basabe at times last year, and he said he frequently found himself out of position in his first year with the Hawkeyes, leaving himself no choice but to foul his opponent.   

"Why would I chase a guy out to the 3- [point line] who can't shoot? Why would I be on the left side of a guy who's a lefty so he can turn to the middle and use his left hand, instead of being on the right side and use his weaker hand?" he said. "Why put myself in a position where the opponent is at his strength, and it forces me to foul?"

McCaffery said Basabe's off-season weight gain is another reason expectations have been raised. After playing last year at around 212 pounds, the Glen Cove, N.Y., native has bulked up to 234 pounds — and it's something his teammates have taken note of.

"You can tell with what he's done in the weight room and what he's done with his body [that he's motivated]," senior guard Matt Gatens said. "There's a huge difference in him this year."


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